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‘If we don’t act now, we’ll all be swapping our swimmers for hazmat suits’

Over 440,000 hours of sewage was released along England’s coastline in 2023

A WATER company illegally dumped 10 million of litres of raw sewage into Lake Windermere earlier this year, according to leaked documents.

According to the secret files, seen by the BBC, United Utilities allowed sewage to be pumped into the Unesco world heritage site, which is popular with swimmers, for 10 hours in February.

It did not report the incident to the Environment Agency until 13 hours after it started.

The pumping station at Bowness-on-Windermere is permitted to discharge untreated sewage into the lake if it is overwhelmed by rain or snow. Since this was not the case, the dumping is classed as illegal. 

A United Utilities spokesperson said the incident had been caused by “an unexpected fault” on the third-party telecoms cable network in the area, which it says it was “not notified about.”

The revelation coincides with a Friends of the Earth analysis showing that over 440,000 hours of sewage was released along England’s coasts in 2023.

From studying Environment Agency data, the environmental group found that there had been 68,481 incidents of sewage being released into England’s seas last year.

Over a quarter of them were within 1.9 miles of a bathing spot. 

It said that Cowes beach on the Isle of Wight was one of the worst-affected coastal bathing locations. Nearly 5,000 hours of sewage was released nearby in 2023. 

Friends of the Earth has released a spoof news report with comedian Nish Kumar on the opening of a new tourist hotspot called Shit Beach.

The comedian said: “If we don’t act now, we’ll all be swapping our swimmers for hazmat suits and packing an E coli testing kit before hitting the great British seaside this summer.”

“We can’t let water companies have the last laugh, as their shareholders pocket huge payouts while our bills increase.

“We need to show that we give too much of a shit about our beaches and rivers to let them end up being a national health hazard.”

Dani Jordan of Surfers Against Sewage said the leaks were “a result of devastating underinvestment that is systemic across our water industry.

“Water companies spill sewage come rain or shine, all the while siphoning off tens of billions to shareholders and lining the pockets of fat cats at the top.”

The group is staging Paddle-Out protests across the country this weekend.

James Wallace, CEO of River Action said, “Campaigners like Matt Staniek and Save Windermere should not have to be the ones raising the alarm bell and demanding urgent action. Imagine the state of our roads if we didn’t have police officers and penalties that are respected and feared by speeding drivers.

“Is it too much to ask that we have the same high level of policing of environmental polluters that can kill whole ecosystems and threaten the livelihoods and wellbeing of communities?”




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